[Newsmaker] How Minecraft became an R-rated game in South Korea
Deemed to be suitable for ages 7 and up, some schools have started incorporating Minecraft into the classroom as kids can naturally learn teamwork, problem-solving skills, and basic programming while playing. with friends and helping each other create new creations.
In South Korea, however, the rather harmless game developed by Mojang Studios in 2009 is now only available to players 19 and older.
Frustrated users are directing their anger at the country’s “shutdown law”, which prevents children under 16 from playing online video games between midnight and 6 a.m. to protect them from the side effects of late games at night and loss of sleep.
The “Cinderella law”, in force since 2011, is at the origin of their denial of access to Minecraft, they say in an online petition filed Friday with the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae.
“The Korean gaming market is likely to be the only place in the world where Minecraft is labeled as an adult game,” the petition said, calling for the law to be abolished. As of Sunday morning, he had garnered the support of more than 15,000 Koreans.
Some background is needed to understand what happened to teenage Minecraft users.
When Korea introduced the gaming regulations in 2011, it posed technical challenges for global gaming companies. Establishing a new system capable of filtering out users of a certain age at a certain period in Korea could cause irrevocable damage to old servers.
Instead of launching new dedicated servers for Korea, Microsoft simply changed its policy in 2012 and required Korean users to certify through Xbox Live – Microsoft’s online service for games – that they are 19 years of age or older. if they want to play Microsoft games.
After Microsoft acquired Mojang Studios in 2014, it allowed Minecraft Java Edition users to access the game through their Mojang Studios accounts rather than Xbox Live. This is how Korean teenage users have accessed the game so far.
An issue arose in December when Microsoft began requiring Xbox Live accounts to play Minecraft Java Edition due to security concerns, asking users around the world to migrate their Mojang Studios accounts to Xbox Live. Microsoft apparently didn’t realize the ramifications for Korean users.
By making Minecraft Java Edition playable through Xbox Live accounts, which require users in Korea to certify that they are 19 or older, the game has suddenly become de facto R-rated in the country overnight.
While the migration is currently underway on a voluntary basis globally, Microsoft recently ended the grace period for Korean users and posted a notice on the official Minecraft website that says, “For players in South Korea, you must be 19 or older to purchase and play the Java Edition of Minecraft.
On the controversy, the Department of Gender Equality and the Family, which played a central role in the introduction and passage of the Cinderella Law, argues that Microsoft is to blame.
Microsoft’s management policy is the problem, he says.
“Any responsible video game company should adapt to different systems in different countries when it changes its policy and invest to protect its users,” a ministry official said.
The effectiveness of the Cinderella Law has been challenged several times over the past decade.
According to a report by the National Assembly’s Fourth Industrial Revolution Committee in 2019, the Cinderella Law only increased teenage sleep time by 90 seconds.
A report titled “2020 Game User Panel Survey” released by the Korea Creative Content Agency in May suggests that “the shutdown system requires examination in terms of efficiency because there is no correlation between playing time and sleep time “.
The report adds that the shutdown system, which only applies to computer games, has limitations as 91% of Korean game users are mobile game users.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are working to scrap the Cinderella Law. Rep. Jeon Yong-gi and Rep. Kang Hoon-sik of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea each proposed a review of the closure law last month. Jeon wants to kill the shutdown system once and for all, while Kang intends to maintain the system but let the parents invoke it on a voluntary basis.
Representative Her Euna from the main opposition People Power Party and Representative Ryu Ho-jeong from the Liberal Minor Justice Party are expected to come up with a review together this month.
“The length of time children play games should be decided by a conversation between parents and their children,” Her said.
Ironically, President Moon Jae-in and First Lady Kim Jung-sook celebrated Children’s Day on May 5 by filming a video in Minecraft. The video posted to YouTube shows President Moon and his wife leading children on a virtual tour of Cheong Wa Dae.
By Kim Byung-wook ([email protected])